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This time last year we were told we had to make a decision about what education setting would be best for Roo. After many meetings, speaking to various professionals all who had their opinions, sleepless nights and wishing for a Crystal ball so that you could get a glimpse into the future to see if the decision is the right one we finally made the choice. Despite everyone's different opinions the decision was ultimately up to us as we were his parents. It was so hard as we were scared of making the wrong decision but we realised that we couldn't look too far forward into the future, we needed to concentrate on the present time so decision made, paperwork done and then it was summer break so we put it all behind us and concentrated on having some family time.
As the day drew closer for Roo to start school , the sleepless nights started again (well we already have sleepless nights but I'm talking about the precious hours that I was allowed to sleep but now unable to due to my mind being on overdrive). The deep pit in my stomach started stirring, doubts started creeping in but we needed to give him a chance , to see if the decision we made was the right one.
In the playground there were excited children running around, playing with the outdoor equipment, chatting to each other, their parents proudly taking photos to capture the new step in their children's lives and in the midst of it all stood a little boy all alone...his eyes glanced around, watching the children. He caught a glimpse of the metal bars on the play equipment and his face lit up and off he went. He kept coming back to us smiling and squealing in that high pitch noise he sometimes makes and going back to the play equipment. Some of the other kids who knew him from nursery gave him a smile and said hello, they were used to him and his unique ways but some weren't and shyed away from him. He was alone while the others played in groups and this got us thinking about what would happen in break and lunch times as we hated the idea of him being alone all the time..we tried to take some photos like the other parents but Roo wasn't having it, he got upset so we just left it at that which made us a bit sad as we have photos of our other children to mark this moment in their lives.
As the days and weeks went pass, he gradually got into the routine of school, but at home we started to notice changes as well as other family members and people who knew Roo commented on the changes. He had become a lot more emotional, stopped talking, didn't want to interact with others except for us his parents. When vistors came to the house including family members he would run away and hide not wanting to be with them. We put it down to him adjusting to the big change in his life. The lack of sleep several nights a week didn't help as he was physically exhausted come the end of the school day, which contributed to his emotional outbursts, increase in meltdowns, refusal to eat and talk.
After a month of worrying and watching him closely I noticed something happening. On our school runs some of the older children would call out his name and smile even though he never responded to them except to stare at them and very rarely some even got a smile from him. Those kids even did the "hello" sign when greeting him as he knew what it meant. This warmed me and made me feel slightly better that the kids were starting to accept Roo for who he is.
Then some days he started to be a bit unsure about going in and I would have to wait till a member of staff was available along with an older pupil to take him in. One day he wasn't having it, didn't want the older pupils to take him in, instead he just stayed by me. I managed to get him to the open door but he wouldn't go any further so I said to him we would just wait for the staff member to finish who was talking to another parent. Then I saw a girl come along, she asked to stroke Pepper (my assistant dog) & she noticed Roo standing next to me and without hesitation she put her arm around his shoulders and leaned in to speak to him, I lipread her and saw that she was whispering reassuring words , telling him that it was ok. He looked at her as if taking in what she was saying and together they went in, she made sure he went through the second set of doors and got someone else to take him before going upstairs to her own class. A few days later my husband took Roo to school on a rare day off and when he came home he spoke in amazement at how an older girl had come along, put her arm around his shoulders and guided him in. He stood and saw how she made sure he got through the next lot of doors safely.That simple gesture again that made hubby understand how I had felt when I first saw it.
A simple gesture was all it took to make us realise that he was going to be ok. The arm around his shoulders guiding him and the voice reassuring him that it was ok. He was in a place where children aren't fazed by disabilities because they see so many others similar to him around the school. They treat them with the respect they deserve, making sure they are a part of the school community. I knew then that we had made the right decision.